If you’ve fallen off the “motivation wagon” as you struggle to make it to your next workout or training session, I’ve got news for you. You might have the wrong idea about motivation.
Yes, we do mean the same thing when we talk about motivation for fitness. But, it seems to be a word thrown around in fitness frequently. I hear people left and right complaining that motivation is something they “need”.
This one statement tells me everything about how a trainee or two understands motivation. Though not completely incorrect, the idea of motivation as a starter for action is misguided. Having this idea for too long can lead to demotivation more than anything.
The truth is this: Motivation isn’t like a divine revelation that makes you suddenly start exercising and dieting as you should. Instead, it’s something a bit more mundane than what most people make it out to be.
I know this is a curious statement. You’ll just have to read on to find out more.
Mark Manson has an interesting quote about where motivation lies in the motivation-action continuum. To him, “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation but also the cause of it.”
Whenever I listen to people tell me about how hard it is to stick to a workout plan, motivation is always the limiting factor. I gather that, for these people, motivation is to a workout what gasoline is to a car. It’s a fundamental thing that needs to happen before the workout occurs.
This is not wrong in and of itself. Sometimes motivation does happen organically– maybe you’re inspired by something you read, or perhaps you’re just in a great mood. But what if motivation isn’t easy to come by on that day? Do you skip the workout? Doing this can force you into a negative feedback loop that reinforces not working out until you find motivation — which may or may not come again. Even if it does, it’s not going to be on the timetable you expect.
In reality, motivation does not always come before you decide to work out. It is something that builds as you train. It’s the result of doing something, feeling great about it, and looking forward to doing it again tomorrow. It’s an active process, and not passive like most people think it is.
Motivation isn’t a magic pill to fuel the desire to train regularly. If you’re looking for a long-term fix for a lack of motivation, you’ll need to look elsewhere for the extra kick. More specifically, you need to form habits.
An article on Psychology Today talks about how habits are developed. Essentially, once you begin a cycle of acting, it doesn’t matter whether a person desires to act or not. At some point, they just perform out of habit.
For fitness, you can use this as a way to derive more motivation. By simply “doing”, you go through your workouts and finish them. Do this frequently enough, and working out becomes a habit. The whole motivation issue will essentially take care of itself.
With enough habitual training sessions, you’ll soon find yourself fitter, leaner, and stronger. So, the answer to a lack of motivation isn’t to wait. It’s to do something and do it often until it becomes a habit.
The motivation for fitness manifests itself as soon as you decide to make a change. However, habit is what gets you from the first workout of the year to workout 365. The key to developing a habit involves two steps. These steps are:
- Do it again the next day
That’s all there is to it. At the end of the day developing a habit is straightforward. All you need to do is start doing something and do it again regardless of how you feel.
Most experts say that it takes 21 days to develop habits. Sure, your mileage may vary. However, try building the habit of exercising at a light to moderate intensity for three weeks. Before you know it, exercise will not be a chore but a habit.
The more I think about it, the motivation for fitness isn’t something that escapes once we’ve built habits. Habits make the changes we want to make much easier. And they do it in a way sheer willpower cannot.
So, if you’re struggling to work out, don’t wait for motivation. Build it through your actions instead.